Slut

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Welcome to Format Free Friday, when I break the format of answering your questions and I dispense that which we rarely welcome in life: Unsolicited Advice.

I love the term slut shaming. I love it because for so long there was this thing, this phenomenon that existed, with no term to describe it.  I love putting a name to the thing that every American teenage girl is forced to contend with – this impossible situation that our society imposes on girls in which we virtually demand that they hold themselves out as sexual objects or risk being perceived as irrelevant. And the moment when these innocent kids overstep that invisible line – the division point between looking/acting tastefully sexyand too sexy, we slam them in the face with the word SLUT and shame them. This is called slut shaming.

Let me underscore one additional point: This line that we’re talking about – it keeps moving. With every new month, year and decade, the rules change regarding what society considers to be tastefully sexy.  And what is OK in New York City is not OK in Charlotte, North Carolina. The rules change depending on the part of the country that you live in. They change from school to school, and from public school to private school.  I’m 44-years old and I’m still negotiating this invisible line. How then, can we reasonably expect someone 30 years my junior, to be able to navigate it successfully? Or someone who is 24-years my junior, such as Miley Cyrus?

You and I contribute to slut shaming.  Oh, it’s not like either of us are unsophisticated enough to actually use the word slut anymore. We’re smarter than that, which makes it more difficult to see when we are indeed slut shaming. We express our judgmental views not in spoken words, but in a look, a raised eyebrow, a Facebook posting during the VMA’s or an elbow to our friend’s side as we’re walking down the street.

What if I told you that every time you express a judgment about a female’s appearance or about her sexual behavior, that what you’re actually doing is sublimating your own sexual jealousy through a socially acceptable form of gossip? What if I shamed you into ceasing to engage in slut shaming?